The Juvenile Justice System is a separate and distinct branch of the criminal justice system. The Juvenile Unit of the Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office is charged with prosecuting juvenile delinquency cases in the Family Court. Juvenile delinquency is defined as an act that is committed by a person under the age of 18 that would be a crime or a disorderly persons offense if committed by an adult.
Juveniles who commit criminal offenses are charged with "juvenile delinquency" by law enforcement or citizen complainants. The juvenile delinquency complaints are then sent to the Family Court and the Prosecutor’s Office. Minor, first-time offenders are oftentimes diverted from formal hearings in court, but the Prosecutor’s Juvenile Unit screens each complaint in order to ensure that serious acts of delinquency or repetitive acts of delinquency are not diverted. Members of the Juvenile Unit prosecute those complaints which are referred on to the Family Court judges by the presentation of physical evidence and witnesses, much like adult criminal proceedings.
The Juvenile Unit processes cases through one assistant prosecutor, who is responsible for the case from receipt through disposition. This system ensures that cases receive faster and more thorough attention, accountability attaches and victims and witnesses are not subjected to repetitious interviews with different personnel.
A Victim Witness advocate is assigned to the Unit to assist victims of juvenile crimes and safeguard the rights of victims in juvenile cases. One of her responsibilities is to notify victims of the status and disposition of their cases. Furthermore, the advocate requests information from the victim to assist the assistant prosecutor in obtaining restitution on behalf of the victim.
Victims have certain rights in the juvenile justice system. A victim or a member of the victim’s immediate family is entitled to receive information regarding the identity of the juvenile, the offense, diversion, adjudication and disposition. A victim has the right to make recommendations about the disposition of the complaint, including objecting to diversion. The assigned prosecutor will describe the potential plea agreement in detail and the reasoning if it is appropriate. A victim has the right to make an in-person statement to the judge before disposition. The assigned Victim Witness advocate will assist in educating the victim about their rights.
The Juvenile Unit actively participates in the community through public speaking engagements and assignments to various committee’s that pertain to youth services.
Furthermore, the Juvenile Unit provides legal assistance to local and county law enforcement agencies about alternatives to prosecution for minor offenses. Such alternatives include, but are not limited to, stationhouse adjustments, community service and substance abuse education. If a Law Enforcement Officer or a member of the community has a question about the different programs first time juvenile offenders are eligible for, please review the link below to the Attorney General Guidelines on Stationhouse Adjustments or contact the assigned prosecutor.
Alec J. Gutierrez
Victim Witness Advocate – Juvenile Unit